Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

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much judicial business. The law-lords, whose advice is
required to guide the unlearned majority, are employed
daily in administering justice elsewhere. It is impos-
sible, therefore, that during a busy session, the Upper
House should give more than a few days to an im-
peachment. To expect that their Lordships would
give up partridge-shooting, in order to bring the great-
est delinquent to speedy justice, or to relieve accused
innocence by speedy acquittal, would be unreasonable



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134 WARRRN HASTINGS.

indeed. A well constituted tribunal, sitting legulai'ly
six days in the week, and nine hours in the day, would
have brought the trial of Hastings to a close in less than
three months. The Lords had not finished theii work
in seven years.

The result ceased to be matter of doubt, fix)m the
time when the Lords resolved that they would be guided
by the rules of evidence which are received in the in-
ferior courts of the realm. Those rules, it is well
known, exclude much information which would be
quite sufficient to determine the conduct of any reason-
able man, in the most important transactions of private
life. These rules, at every assizes, save scores of cul-
prits whom judges, jury, and spectators, firmly believe
to be guilty. But when those rules were rigidly ap-
plied to offences committed many years before, at the
distance of many thousands of miles, conviction was,
of course, out of the question. We do not blame the
accused and his counsel for availing themselves of
every legal advantage in order to obtain an acquittal.
But it is clear that an acquittal so obtained cannot be
pleaded in bar of the judgment of history.

Several attempts were made by the fiiends of Has-
tings to put a stop to the trial. In 1789 they proposed
a vote of censure upon Burke, for some violent lan-
guage which he had used respecting the death of Nun-
comar and the connection between Hastings and Impey.
Burke was then unpopular in the last degree both with
the House and with the country. The asperity and
indecency of some expressions which he had used during
the debates on the Regency had annoyed even his
warmest friends. The vote of censure was carried:
and those who had moved it hoped that the managers
would lesign in disgust. Burke was deeply hurt. But



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WARREN HASTINGS. 135

his zeal for what he considered as the cause of justice
and mercy triumphed over his personal feelings. He
received Hhe censure of the House with dignity and
meekness, and declared that no personal mortification
or humiliation should induce him to flinch from the
sacred duty which he had undertaken.

In the following year the Parliament was dissolved ;
and the fiiends of Hastings entertained a hope that the
new House of Commons might not be disposed to go
on with the impeachment. They began by maintaining
that the whole proceeding was terminated by the disso-
lution. Defeated on this point, they made a direct
motion that the impeachment should be dropped ; but
they were defeated by the combined forces of the Gov-
ernment and the Opposition. It was, however, re-
solved that, for the sake of expedition, many of the
articles should be withdrawn. In truth, had not some
such measure been adopted, the trial would have lasted
till the defendant was in his grave.

At length, in the spring of 1795, the decision was
pronounced, near eight years after Hastings had been
brought by the Serjeant-at-arms of the Commons to
the l^r of the Lords. On the last day of this great
procedure the public curiosity, long suspended, seemed
to be revived. Anxiety about the judgment there
could be none ; for it had been fully ascertained that
there was a great majority for the defendant. Never^
thcless many wished to see the pageant, and the Hall
was as much crowded as on the first day. But those
who, having been present on the first day, now bore
a part in the proceedings of the last, were few ; and
most of those few were altered men.

As Hastings himself said, the arraignment had taken
oiace before one generation, and the judgment was pro^



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136 WARREN HASTINGS.

noonced by another. The spectator could not look at
the woolsack, or at the red benches of the Peel's, or at
the green benches of the Commons, without seeing
something that reminded him of the instability of all
human things, of the instability of power and &me and
life, of the more lamentable instability of friendship.
The great seal was borne before Lord Loughborough,
who, when the trial commenced, was a fierce opponent
of Mr. Pitt's government, and who was now a member
of that government, while Thurlow, who presided in
the Court when it first sat, estranged from all his
old allies, sat scowling among the junior barons. Of
about a hundred and sixty nobles who walked in the pro-
cession on the first day, sixty had been laid in tlieir ^im-
ily vaults. Still more affecting must have been the sight
of the managers' box. What had become of that fiur
fellowship, so closely bound together by public and pri-
vate ties, so resplendent with every talent and accom-
plishment ? It had been scattered by calamities more
bitter than the bitterness of death. The great chie&
were still living, and still in the full vigour of their gen-
ius. But their friendship was at an end. It had been
violently and publicly dissolved, with tears and stormy
reproaches. If those men, once so dear to each other,
were now compelled to meet for the purpose of manag-
ing the impeachment, they met as strangers whom pub-
lic business had brought together, and behaved to each
other with cold and distant civility. Burke had in his
vortex whirled away Windham. Fox had been fol-
lowed by Sheridan and Grey.

Only twenty-nine Peers voted. Of these only six
found Hastings guilty on the charges relating to Cheyte
Sing and to the B^ums. On other charges, tlie ma-
iority in his fiavour was still greater. On some he was



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WARREN KA.8TINGS. 137

unanimously aosolved. He was then called to the bar,
was informed from the woolsack that the Lords had ac-
quitted him, and was solemnly discharged. He bowed
respectfully and retired.

We have said that the decision had been fully ex-
pected. It was also generally approved. At the com-
mencement of the tnal there had been a strong and
indeed unreasonable feeUng against Hastings. At the
close of the trial there was a feeUng equally strong
and equally unreasonable in his favour. One cause of
the ch.ange was, no doubt, what is commonly called
the fickleness of the multitude, but what seems to us
to be merely the general law of human nature. Both
in individuals and in masses violent excitement is
always followed by remission, and often by reaction.
We are all inchned to depreciate whatever we have
overpraised, and, on the other hand, to show imdue
indulgence where we have shown undue rigour. It
was thus in the case of Hastings. The length of his
trial, moreover, made him an object of compassion.
It was thought, and not without reason, that, even if
he was guilty, he was still an ill-used man, and that
an impeachment of eight years was more than a suffi-
cient punishment. It was also felt that, though, in
the ordinary course of criminal law, a defendant is
not allowed to set off his good actions against hie
crimes, a great poUtical cause should be tried on dif-
ferent principles, and that a man who had governed
an empire during thirteen years might have done some
very reprehensible things, and yet might be on the
whole deserving of rewards and honours rather than
of fine and imprisonment. The press, an instrument
neglected by the prosecutors, was used by Hastings
and his friends with great efiect. Every ship, too«



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138 WARREN HASTINGS.

that arrived from Madras or Bengal, brought a cuddy
fall of his admirers. Every gentleman from India
spoke of the late Governor-General as having deserved
better, and having been treated worse, than any man
living. The effect of this testimony unanimously
given by all persons who knew the East was naturally
very great. Retired members of the Indian services,
civil and military, were settled in all comers of tht*
kingdom. Each of them was, of course, in his own
little circle, regarded as an oracle on an Indian ques-
tion, and they were, with scarcely one exception, the
zealous advocates of Hastings. It is to be added, that
the numerous addresses to the late Governor-General,
which his friends in Bengal obtained from the natives
and transmitted to England, made a considerable im-
pression. To these addresses we attach little or no
importance. That Hastings was beloved by the people
whom he governed is true ; but the eulogies of pundits,
zemindars, Mahominedan doctors, do not prove it to be
true. For an En«:lish collector or judge would have
found it easy to induce any native who could write to
sign a panegyric on tiio most odious ruler that ever was
in India. It was said that at Benares, the very place
at which the acts set forth in the first article of im-
peachment had been committed, the natives had erected
a temple to Hastings, and this story excited a strong
sensation in England. Burke's observations on the
apotheosis were admirable. He saw no reason for
astonishment, he said, in the incident which had been
lepresented as so striking. He knew something of
the mythology of the Brahmins. He knew that as
tfiey worshipped some gods from love, so they wor-
shipped others from fear. He knew that they erected
shrines, not only to the benignant deities of light and



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WARREN HASTINGS^ 13U

plenty, but also to the fiends who preside over small-
pox and murder ; nor did he at all dispute the claim
of Mr. Hastings to be admitted into such a Pantheon.
This reply has always struck us as one of the finest
that ever was made in Parliament. It is a grave and
forcible argument, decorated by the most brilliant wit
and fiuicy.

Hastings was, however, safe. But in every thing
except character, he would have been far better off if,
when first impeached, he had at once pleaded guilty,
and paid a fine of fifty thousand poimds. He was a
ruined man. The legal expenses of his defence had
been enormous. The expenses which did not appear in
his attorney's bill were perhaps larger still. Great
sums had been paid to Major Scott. -Great sums had
been laid out in bribing newspapers, rewarding pam-
phleteers, and circulating tracts. Burke, so early as
1790, declared in the House of Commons that twenty
thousand pounds had been employed in corrupting the
press. It is certain that no controversial weapon, firom
the gravest reasoning to the coarsest ribaldry, was left
unemployed. Logan defended the accused Governor
with great ability in prose. For the lovers of verse, the
speeches of the managers were burlesqued in Simpkin's
letters. It is, we are a&aid, indisputable that Hastings
stooped so low as to court the aid of that malignant
and filthy baboon John Williams, who called himself
Anthony Pasquin. It was necessary to subsidise such
allies largely. The private hoards of Mrs. Hastings
had disappeared. It is said that the banker to whom
they had been intrusted had ikiled. Still if Has-
tings had practised strict economy, he would, after all
his losses, have had a moderate competence ; but in the
management of his private affairs he was imprudent.



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140 WARREN HASTINGS.

The dearest wish of his heart had always been to r^ain
Daylesford. At length, in the very year in which his
trial commenced, the wish was accomplished ; and the
domain, ahenated more than seventy years before,
returned to the descendant of its old lords. But the
fmanor house was a ruin ; and the grounds round it
had, during many years, been utterly neglected. Hast-
ings proceeded to build, to plant, to form a sheet of
water, to excavate a grotto ; and, before he was dis-
missed from the bar of the House of Lords, he had
expended more than forty thousand pounds in adorning
his seat.

The general feeling both of the Directors and of
the proprietors of the East India Company was that
he had great claims on them, that his services to them
had been eminent, and that his misfortunes had been
the effect of his zeal for their interest. His friends in
Leadenhall Street proposed to reimburse him the costs
of his trial, and to settle on him an annuity of five
thousand pounds a year. But the consent of the Board
of Control was necessary; and at the head of the
Board of Control was Mr. Dundas, who had himself
been a party to the impeachment, who had, on that
account, been reviled with great bitterness by the ad-
herents of Hastings, and who, therefore, was not in a
very complying mood. He reftised to consent to what
the Directors suggested. The Directors remonstrated.
A long controversy followed. Hastings, in the mean
time, was reduced to such distress, that he could hardly
pay his weekly bills. At lengdi a compromise was
made. An annuity for life of four thousand pormds
was settled on Hastings ; and in order to enable him
to meet pressing demands, he was to receive ten years'
annuity in advance. The Company was also permitted



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WARREN HASTINGS. 141

to lend him fifty thousand pounds, to be repaid by
instalments without interest. The reUef, though given
in the most absurd manner, was sufficient to enable
the retired Governor to hve in comfort, and even in
luxury, if he had been a skilful manager. But he wass
careless and profuse, and was more than once under
the necessity of applying to the Company for assistance,
which was liberally given.

He had security and affluence, but not the power
and dignity which, when he landed fi'om India, he had
reason to expect. He had then looked forward to a
coronet, a red riband, a seat at the Council Board, an
office at Whitehall. He was then only fifty-two, and
might hope for many years of bodily and mental vig-
our. The case was widely different when he left the
bar of the Lords. He was now too old a man to turn
his mind to a new class of studies and duties. He had
no chance of receiving any mark of royal favour while
Mr. Pitt remained in power ; and, when Mr. Pitt
retired, Hastings was approaching his seventieth year.

Once, and only once, after his acquittal, he inter-
fered in politics ; and that interference was not much
to his honour. In 1804 he exerted himself strenuously
to prevent Mr. Addington, against whom Fox and Pitt
had combined, firom resigning the Treasury. It is dif-
ficult to believe that a man so able and energetic as
Hastings can have thought that, when Bonaparte was
at Boulogne with a great army, the defence of our
island could safely be intrusted to a ministry which did
not contain a single person whom flattery could describe
as a great statesman. It is also certain that, on the
important question which had raised Mr. Addington to
power, and on which he differed from both Fox and
Pitt, Hastings, as might have been expected, agreed



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142 WARREN HASTINGS.

with Fox and Pitt, and was decidedly opposed to
Addington. Religious intolerance has never been the
vice of the Indian service, and certainly was not the
vice of Hastings. But Mr. Addington had treated
him with mariced favour. Fox had been a principal
manager of the impeachment. To Pitt it was owing
that there had been an impeachment; and Hastings,
we fear, was on this occasion guided by personal con-
siderations, rather than by a regard to the public inter-
est.

The last twenty-four years of his life were chiefly
passed at Daylesford. He amused himself with embel-
lishing his grounds, riding fine Arab horses, fattening
prize-cattle, and trying to rear Indian animals and veg-
etables in England. He sent for seeds of a veiy fine
custard-apple, from the garden of what had once been
his own villa, among the green hedgerows of Allipore.
He tried also to naturalise in Worcestershire the deli^
cious leechee, almost the only fruit of Bengal whidi
deserves to be regretted even amidst the plenty of
Covent Garden. The Mogul emperors, in the time
of their greatness, had in vain attempted to introduce
into Hindostan the goat of the table-land of Thibet,
whose down supplies the looms of Cashmere with the
materials of the finest shawls. Hastings tried, with no
better fortune, to rear a breed at Daylesford ; nor does
he seem to have succeeded better with the cattle of
Bootan, whose tails are in high esteem as the best fans
for brushing away the mosquitoes.

Literature divided his attention with his conserva-
tories and his menagerie. He had always loved books,
and they were now necessary to him. Though not a
j)oet, in any high sense of the word, he wrote neat and
polished Unes with great facility, and was fond of exet*



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WARREN HASTINGS. 143

cising this talent. Indeed, if we must speak out, he
seems to have been more of a Trissotin than was to be
expected from the powers of his mind, and from the
great part which he had played in hfe. We are
assured in these Memoirs that the first thing which he
did in the morning was to write a copy of verses. When
the &mily and guests assembled, the poem made its
appearance as regularly as the eggs and rolls ; and Mn
Gleig requires us to beHeve that, if from any accident
Hastings came to the breakfast-table without one of his
charming performances in his hand, the omission was
felt by all as a grievous disappointment. Tastes differ
widely. For ourselves, we must say that, however
good the breakfasts at Daylesford may have been, —
and we are assured that the tea was of the most aroma-
tic flavour, and that neither tongue nor venison-pasty
was wanting, — ^we should have thought the reckoning
high if we had been forced to earn our repast by listen-
ing every day to a new madrigal or sonnet composed by
our host. We are glad, however, that Mr. Gleig ha*
preserved this little feature of character, though we
think it by no means a beauty. It is good to be often
reminded of the inconsbtency of human nature, and to
learn to look without wonder or disgust on the weak-
nesses which are found in the strongest minds. Diony-
sios in old times, Frederic in the last century, with
capacity and vigour equal to the conduct of the greatest
affairs, united all the Uttle vanities and affectations of
provincial blue-stockings. These great examples may
consDle the admirers of Hastings for the affliction of
seeing him reduced to the level of the Hayleys and
Sewards.

When Hastings had passed many years in retirement,
and had long outUved the common age of men, he again



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144 WARREN HASTINGS.

became for a short time an object of general attention.
In 1813 the charter of the East India Company was
renewed ; and much discussion about Indian affidrs
took place in Parliament. It was determined to
examine witnesses at the bar of the Commons; and
Hastings was ordered to attend. He had appeared at
that bar once before. It was when he read his answer to
charges which Burke had laid on the table. Since that
time twenty-seven yeara had elapsed; public feeling
had undergone a complete change ; the nation had now
forgotten his faults, and remembered only his services.
The reappearance, too, of a man who had been among
the most distinguished of a generation that had passed
away, who now belonged to history, and who seemed to
have risen from the dead, could not but produce a
solemn and pathetic effect. The Commons received
him with acclamations, ordered a chair to be set for him,
and, when he retired, rose and uncovered. There
were, indeed, a few who did not sympathize with the
general feeling. One or two of the managers of the
impeachment were present. They sate in the same seats
which they had occupied when they had been thanked
for the services which they had rendered in West-
minster Hall : for, by the courtesy of the House, a
member who has been thanked in his place is consid-
ered as having a right always to occupy that place.
These gentlemen were not disposed to admit that they
had employed several of the best years of their lives
in pei*secuting an innocent man. They accordingly
kept their seats, and pulled their hats over their
brows; but the exceptions only made the prevailing
enthusiasm more remarkable. The Lords received
the old man with similar tokens of respect. The
University of Oxford conferred on him the degree



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WARREN HASTINGS. 146

of Doctor of Laws ; and, in the Sheldonian Theatre,
tlie undergraduates welcomed him with tumultuous
cheering.

These mai*ks of public esteem were soon followed by
marks of royal favour. Hastings was sworn of the
Privy Council, and was admitted to a long private au-
dience of the Prince Regent, who treated him very gra-
ciously. When the Emperor of Russia and the King
of Prussia visited England, Hastings appeared in their
train both at Oxford and in the Guildhall of London,
and, though surrounded by a crowd of princes and
great warriors, was everywhere received with marks of
respect and admiration. He was presented by the
Prince Regent both to Alexander and to Frederic
William ; and his Royal Highness went so fer as to de-
clare in public that honours fiir higher than a seat in
the Privy Council were due, and would soon be paid,
to the man who had saved the British dominions in
Asia. Hastings now confidently expected a peerage ;
bat, from some unexplained cause, he was again disap-
pointed.

He lived about four years longer, in the enjoyment
of good spirits, of faculties not impaired to any painftil
or degrading extent, and of health such as is rarely en-
joyed by those who attain such an age. At length, on
the tvrenty-second of August, 1818, in the eighty-«ixth
year of his age, he met death with the same tranquil
and decorous fortitude which he had opposed to all tht^
trials of his various and eventful life.

With all his faults, — and they were neither few nor
small, — only one cemetery was worthy to contain his
remains. In that temple of silence and reconciUation
where the enmities of twenty generations lie buried, in
the Great Abbey which has during many ages afforded



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146 WARREN HASTINGS.

a quiet resting-place to those whose minds and bodies
have been shattered by the contentions of the Great
Hall, the dust of the illustrious accused should have
mingled with the dust of the illustrious accusers. This
was not to be. Yet the place of interment was not ill-
chosen. Behind the chancel of the parish church of
Daylesford, in earth which already held the bones of
many chiefs of the honse of Hastings, was laid the
coffin of the greatest man who has ever borne that an-
cient and widely extended name. On that very spot,
probably, fourscore years before, the little Warren,
meanly clad and scantily fed, had played with the
children of ploughmen. Even then his young mind
had revolved plans which might be called romantic.
Yet, however romantic, it is not likely that they had
been so strange as the truth. Not only liad the poor
orphan retrieved the fallen fortunes of his line. Not
only had he repurchased the old lands, and rebuilt the
old dwelling. He had preserved and extended an em-
pire. He had founded a polity. He had administered
government and war with more than the capacity of
Richelieu. He had patronised learning with the judi-
cious liberality of Cosmo. He had been attacked by
tlie most formidable combination of enemies that ever
sought the destruction of a single victim ; and over that
combination, after a struggle of ten yeai*s, he had tri-
umphed. He had at length gone down to his grave in
the fulness of age, in peace, after so many troubles, in
honour, after so much obloquy.

Those who look on his character without favour or
malevolence will pronounce that, in the two great ele-
ments of all social virtue, in respect for the rights of
others, and in sympathy for the sufterings of others, he
was deficient. His principles were somewhat lax.



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WAKREN HASTINGS. 147

His heart was somewhat hard. But though we cannot
with truth describe him either as a righteous or as a
merciftil ruler, we cannot regard without admiration
the amplitude and fertility of his intellect, his rare tal-
ents for command, for administration, and for contro-
versy, his dauntless courage, his honourable poverty,
his fervent zeal for the interests of the state, his noble
equanimity, tried by both extremes of fortune, and



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 11 of 84)